Designing: Caracas

28 Feb

Caracas, Venezuela, has the distinction of being one of the only places in the world where petrol is cheaper than water. So, understandably, everyone drives. I guess everyone is pretty thirsty too.

But I digress. In a city of six million people, it is clearly unsustainable to have everyone driving, even if petrol is a bargain. So Caracas, as well as the rest of Venezuela, has been investing in public transport initiatives in a big way.

Problem is, a lot of these initiatives are (understandably) built to benefit taxpayers, largely ignoring the ‘unofficial’ population who lives in barrios stepped up the steep mountains that surround the city. Barrios like San Agustin. For these residents, the main Caracas metro system and other public transport initiatives are ineffective, as they still have to spend hours each week hiking up seriously steep hills (up to 1200m above sea level) just to get home.

So the Urban Think Tank, in conjunction with local communities, developed the ingenious Metro Cable project, which connects conventional metro stations to the barrios via a wind-powered, 2.1km cable car system capable of moving 1200 people per hour in each direction. The stations themselves are strikingly designed, incorporating vital civic services such as supermarkets, daycare facilities, and gymnasiums (the latter presumably to keep them fit, as they’ll no longer be hiking up and down mountainsides). The project is likely to score political points also – President Hugo Chavez has never been more popular, at least in this part of town.

If only urban planners in Australia and much of the western world were half as innovative, we too would find a way out of our car-choked existence, rather than having to put up with dubious panaceas like the absurd metro to nowhere currently being built in Sydney.

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Posted by on February 28, 2009 in designing, urban design


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